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Another Voice: Legalizing marijuana could lead to a plague of problems

By Chris Jacobs

Those in power in Albany are pushing for quick passage of marijuana legalization. In deciding whether to legalize, the fundamental question is whether the legalization of pot will make the people of our state healthier and safer? I believe the answer to that question is a resounding “no.”

When you look at the states that have already legalized, the data is not pretty. Legal pot states have seen significant increases in marijuana-induced hospitalizations. In Colorado, the rate of marijuana-related emergency room visits increased 35 percent in the first four years of legalizing pot.

As we continue the battle against drinking and driving, the legalization of pot will add another deadly culprit to our roads. Since legalization in Colorado, the number of drivers intoxicated with marijuana and involved in fatal traffic crashes increased 88 percent from 2013 to 2015. Washington State has endured a doubling of drugged driving fatalities in the years following legalization. These alarming statistics are a main reason so many in law enforcement have come out against legalization.

Today’s marijuana would be unrecognizable by the Woodstock generation. Back then THC levels were about 2 to 3 percent. Today’s pot, whether it is smoked, vaped or eaten in attractive gummy bear shapes, contains more than 25 percent THC. Further, chronic users are demanding higher and higher ratios of THC to satiate their addiction and the profiteers are more than willing to accommodate.

What about our youth? Certainly, no conclusive evidence exists that legalization is better for the health and welfare of our children. To the contrary, states that have legalized have seen an increase in youth usage. We have learned that brain development continues through age 25. Marijuana impedes brain development and amplifies mental health ailments, especially in adolescents. When we legalize we make it more socially acceptable, leading to greater youth experimentation and usage.

We have spent billions of dollars over the decades to combat the deadly legacy of tobacco and smoking in our society. It seems irrational to sanction another product whose main means of usage is smoking. Simply put, all forms of smoking are very dangerous for lung, heart and overall physical health. The ultimate irony is that big tobacco, which is responsible for millions of tobacco-related cancer deaths, has invested heavily in this new marijuana business.

We need to take this decision of legalization very seriously. At a minimum, I urge the governor and the other in Albany leadership to slow down this process to assure that we garner all the facts and perspectives.

State Sen. Chris Jacobs is a Republican representing Western New York’s 60th District.

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